Review: Curry Delights

A little while back, I signed up for a KickStarter called Curry Delights.  Curry Delights is a new business, founded by Ambika and Vikram, who live in Sydney and want to bring Indian feasts into Australian kitchens.  The idea is that you subscribe, and once a month you get a box containing a combination of spice mixes, raw rice grains and poppadoms, ready to eat snacks, a dessert, a shopping list for fresh ingredients, and a recipe booklet telling you how to put together your menu.  Ambika and Vikram promise a new menu every month, featuring a different Indian cuisine.

This sort of thing is absolutely irresistible for someone like me.  I love hampers, I love surprises, I love cooking, and I’m really kind of useless at cooking Indian food, so it really was a win all around – I backed the Kickstarter immediately, and signed up for three months of boxes, as well as a gratuitous box of snacks to eat in front of the cricket.  The first box arrived this week.

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(Actually, it arrived last Friday, and the evil courier didn’t deliver it, and then dropped it off somewhere that we couldn’t possibly collect it from until Tuesday.  Mere words cannot convey how frustrating this was.  I wanted my exciting Indian surprise feast and I couldn’t have it!)

Anyway, our kit was for a feast for four, so on Tuesday, I duly sent Andrew to collect the box while I invited two friends around for dinner.

My precious...

My precious…

At first glance, I must admit, I felt slightly disappointed.  Not in the quantities, but for some reason, I didn’t envisage so many commercial packets of things.  Or so little shopping for fresh ingredients!  I very rarely buy things that come in packets unless they are things like pasta, rice, or tinned vegetables.  Having said that, I realised quite quickly that the brands and products were completely unfamiliar to me, and possibly not readily available in Australia, which was already an interesting start…

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I started by opening the booklet (which is a nice, professionally printed job), to see what was on the menu.  The booklet informed me that tonight’s menu came from the Punjab region, and listed the items in the kit – with their brands, which I thought was a nice touch.  There are items I will definitely want to try again, and knowing where they come from is useful.

Next there was a short shopping list, and a menu.  Our sides were to be Mini Samosas, Sweet and Savoury Nibbles and Papad; our mains were butter chicken OR paneer butter masala, dal Makhani, Boondi raita and basmati rice with peas; and our dessert was Soan Papdi.

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The booklet is laid out in a very simple step by step format – it’s clearly designed for people who do less cooking than me, but frankly, on a work night during grant season when I’m feeling a bit under the weather anyway, I am entirely open to a booklet that does not require me to think too hard.  I duly started by rinsing and soaking the rice, and then moved onto step two, which turned out to be opening the packet of mini samosas and putting them in a bowl to serve.  Well within my grasp…

The Samosas turned out to be filled with spicy dried fruit, and they were absolutely delicious, though a bit hot for my palate (I’m a wuss, though, so normal people would love these). I liked the mix of sweetness and savouriness in the flavour, and would definitely buy these again.  All four of us were very taken with the samosas and they disappeared very rapidly.

Note the three tiny little samosas looking lonely in their bowl.  I forgot to photograph them as soon as I put them out, and they vanished very, very fast...

Note the three tiny little samosas looking lonely in their bowl. I forgot to photograph them as soon as I put them out, and they vanished very, very fast…

Step three was opening the savoury nibbles, called ‘Khat Mith’, which seemed to be a collection of lightly spiced puffed grain and nutty things.  Nothing wrong with them, but I didn’t really love them.

Step four was cooking up the papad (poppadums), and that really was fun.  I’ve never cooked poppadums before, and I did enjoy watching them blister up in the saucepan before my eyes.  Very cool.  These papad were flavoured with garlic and chilli, and in retrospect, I really didn’t need to cook up the whole packet, though we made a serious dent in them.  I found their flavour a little pungent for my taste, but everyone else liked them – and once they were combined with the boondi raita and curry, I liked them a lot more.

Step five was cooking the rice and peas. Which was rice, with peas.  This turned out to be the dark horse of the pack, I must say – I’m not sure if it was a particularly good brand of rice, or whether the rinsing, soaking and steaming steps made a huge difference, but whatever the reason, this rice was seriously good, despite having only two ingredients.

Not a very good photo, but very good rice.

Not a very good photo, but very good rice.  Dal is lurking in the background.

Step six was the tomato boondi raita, and I think this was the house favourite.  We all felt that we could have happily eaten a big bowl of this with a spoon.  This was a mixture of yogurt, tomato and coriander, with crispy puffed chickpea boondi stirred through and it was sweet and savoury and crunchy and just utterly delicious.  The boondi, by the way, arrived packed in a little self-sealed sandwich bag – clearly hand-made by Vikram and Ambika.

The raita.  So very good.

The raita. So very good.

Step seven was the butter chicken or paneer butter masala.  Since I’m vegetarian for Lent, we went with the paneer option. For this recipe, we received a spice mix which needed to be mixed with water and simmered, and to which we added the paneer (which had been sautéed in butter), and eventually the cream.   I couldn’t quite face that much cheese, butter and cream all in the one recipe (especially with raita on the side), so I halved the paneer and added a cubed, steamed sweet potato instead.  It was very good, though I found the sauce ever so slightly grainy – perhaps it needed longer cooking?  I will say, though, that making the curry so late in the process was probably the one weakness in this booklet – the curry needed about 20 minutes from start to end, much of this being simmering time, and by the time I started it, almost everything else was ready.  Getting it started before the Raita, at least, would have been a better order.

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Step eight was to prepare the dal – which was from a packet.  I was a little skeptical about the need to make dal from a packet, since I cook with legumes a lot and don’t think that they are all that difficult, but I appreciate that if the goal is to make an Indian feast in an hour, legumes are not really your friend.  And it was surprisingly good dal, though wetter than I’d normally make it.

Step nine was simply to get the dessert out of its box and serve it – so we did that bit after dinner.  The dessert was fantastic – it’s this strange concoction of chickpea flour, sugar, ghee and cardamom with a texture somewhere between sawdust and fairy-floss, and it is intensely addictive.  It would be even better over ice-cream, in my view, though not after all the other dairy stuff…

Much more delicious than it looks.

Much more delicious than it looks.

Overall, I have to say, that was a really fun experience.  The food was very tasty, and very different from anything I’d normally cook. I definitely discovered a couple of new foodstuffs that I will be seeking out in future, and I loved the excitement of opening all these mysterious packages and creating a feast that someone else had designed for me.  As you will note, I actually very nearly followed the instructions, too, which is rare for me.

In terms of quantities, I reckon the curry, dal, rice and samosas were about right.  There was maybe a little more raita than we strictly needed, but we loved it so much that we were very happy to give it our best shot!  We had way too many savoury snacks and poppadums, and a little more dessert than we needed after all that food.  I very much appreciated that all the food was vegetarian, and quite a bit of it was vegan.  Ambika is vegetarian herself, so fellow vegetarians can feel confident that there will always be a good-quality vegetarian option.  I was interested to note that a surprising amount of the meal was gluten-free, too, – chickpea flour was very much in evidence in the meal.  I believe the meal bases were all vegan, too, though one would need to be creative about avoiding all the dairy.

In terms of value, it looks like they will be charging between $25 and $35 per month, plus shipping, depending on how many months you sign up for.  I think I spent about another $15 at the shops for that meal.  Frank, I think this is incredibly good value for a feast for four people, particularly one that has been curated and set out in such an easily-arranged fashion.  (And did I mention how much I love the fact that I get this surprise package of goodies and that someone else has done all the thinking for me?  So lovely…)

Both boxes together

Both boxes together

Oh, and it really was all on the table in an hour, by the way – just as promised.  Without any multi-tasking on my part, either.

I’m definitely intending to sign up for a proper subscription once my three-month Kickstarter subscription finishes, and I wish Ambika and Vikram the very best of luck with this endeavour.

(Our friends are subscribing too.  It really was a lovely dinner.)

You can visit the Curry Delights website to find out more about subscribing, or visit their Facebook page for more information about brands and suppliers, and to see what other people think about their first box.

PS: I’m not affiliated with Curry Delights in any way, nor have I been paid to write this review, I just really love what they are doing and want more people to know they exist!

PPS – I haven’t reviewed the cricket snacks because of the tragic circumstance that I have not recently had time to watch any cricket.  And one can’t have cricket snacks without cricket.  But they look pretty good, too.

Behold, the cricket snacks!

Behold, the cricket snacks!

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